Five reasons why Newcastle United can secure third win in a row and continue their upward turn

Newcastle United's Merino in action against Swansea City.
Newcastle United's Merino in action against Swansea City.

Newcastle United started their season with three defeats, but since then things have gone full circle.

The Magpies head into Saturday’s clash with Stoke City looking to make in a trio of Premier League victories on the bounce.

There was plenty to be positive about in last weekend’s win at Swansea City.

And here we take a look at FIVE reasons why United can make it three out of three at St James’s Park.

Mikel Merino

How on earth did Newcastle manage to land this star in the making for next to nothing in today’s market?

The much-hyped Renato Sanches had no idea what had hit him on Sunday. It would be no shock to find the Portuguese still rattling around among the loose change in Merino’s pocket.

On a more serious note, the Spain Under-21 international has absolutely everything in his locker.

Not only does he win it, is good in the air, reads the game but also he has the ability to glide past a man, never gives it away, is intelligent, aware of his surroundings but most importantly always looking for a forward pass.

He will cause a lot of very good teams a lot of problems this season, no doubt catching an admiring glance or two along the way.

Defensive solidity

Jamaal Lascelles stole the headlines at the weekend but he could not have done it without partner-in-crime Ciaran Clark.

The Republic of Ireland international and the skipper seem to be building up quite a partnership at the heart of defence.

Having played together for almost a year they look a unit.

While they are not the best in the division, understanding and familiarity can make up for a multitude of sins, just ask title winning pair Robert Huth and Wes Morgan.

Joselu form

When Stoke City allowed United to sign Joselu for a relative bargain sum of £5million earlier this summer there was little fanfare on Tyneside.

‘Why are we signing him?’ many asked. And given his goals record at Stoke, and hardly brilliant tally during a loan spell back in Spain, who could blame people for wondering why Benitez chose to take a gamble on the former Real Madrid forward.

The telling thing was that many fans from the Potteries were dismayed at Mark Hughes letting him go, especially after a goal-laden pre-season at the Bet365 Stadium.

And just a few games in no-one is questioning Rafa’s call now. Joselu has been outstanding, a revelation in fact. His link-up with Ayoze Perez at the Liberty Stadium was a joy to watch at times.

He will take on his old side with a point to prove. He was inches away from adding to his tally at Swansea, I wouldn’t bet against him doing just that at SJP this weekend.

Stand-in strength

One thing that maybe went under the radar in the joy of the Swans win was the performance of United’s two full-backs.

Javier Manquillo looks like a changed man from the defender who looked totally out of sorts sitting on Sunderland’s bench last season.

And on the other side it was a Premier League debut to remember for Jesus Gamez.

The right-back filled in on the left, with Chancel Mbemba injured.

And despite a difficult opening 20 minutes, when he was troubled somewhat by Kyle Naughton, he settled into the game, even proving to be a brilliant outlet on the break for United in the second half.

He’ll need to be at his very best to DeAndre Yedlin out of the side.

But maybe, just maybe, a player who was regarded as one of Benitez’s flops of last season, can finally find some value in the Magpies squad.

Options wait in the wings

At the Liberty, for the first time in a long time, United really seemed to have options on the bench.

As well as having England Under-21 keeper Freddie Woodman waiting in the wings, recently returned Yedlin, Florian Lejeune and Jonjo Shelvey were all there, complemented by last season’s top-scorer Dwight Gayle as well as African duo Christian Atsu and Mohamed Diame.

And all that without the services Aleksandar Mitrovic, Paul Dummett, Mbemba and left out Rolando Aarons.

Benitez proved with his business last season that he is big on making sure he has a considerable squad.

He knows a season can throw up many challenges and the last thing he wants is to be left short in any department, hence the insistence on hanging on to all three United keepers, despite the frustrations of youngster Woodman.

He did not get anywhere near the amount of deals done this summer that he would have hoped for, but one look at the United bench from the weekend shows he has options at his disposal.

Shelvey, Lejeune, Atsu and Yedlin are all seen as part of the Magpies first-choice XI.